On Wednesday, November 10, 2021 in the Jackson County Circuit Court, Byron Keith Shirey was found guilty by a jury of his peers for the 2017 murder of his 78-year-old father, Charles Shirey. Keith was charged in September of 2019 of murder after investigations yielded overwhelming evidence that he had a hand in his father’s murder.
On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, at 11:32 a.m. a call came in to Shelley Wilson, a 911 dispatcher. The caller, Keith Shirey of Dutton, claimed he had just found the body of his father, Charles, on the floor of his home. According to Keith, he was bringing the mail in to his father, and that’s when he came upon the body.
Jackson County deputies, who were the first to arrive on the scene stated they never considered Shirey as a suspect, and in the beginning of the investigation, he was treated as a victim instead. According to the deputies and investigators, the scene was one of the bloodiest they had ever seen. It wasn’t until investigators were made aware of the extent of Charles’ wealth and of Keith’s actions, before and after the murder, that he was arrested.
Charles was lying face-down on the floor just inside one of the back doors, and after EMTs arrived, he was pronounced dead, a fact that was verified by the coroner. State Medical Examiner, Dr. Valerie Green of the Alabama Department of Forensic Science stated that at the time of his death, Charles was 5’7” and weighed 132 pounds. Green also stated that even though Charles was covered in abrasions and contusions, just going by the abrasions, he was hit 19 times on his head, also taking a direct blow to his right eye. His arms, wrists and hands were hit an estimated 17 times, and he suffered several broken bones in the attack. Green testified that Charles’ wounds were consistent with defensive wounds, specifically to his hands.
Nothing was missing from the house, and nothing was stolen. Charles’ wallet was still in his pants pocket, with nothing missing, as was his phone.
Charles Shirey was a prominent farmer in the Dutton community and was the owner of Shirey Farms. He was successful and at the time of his death, had no debt to his name, including farming equipment and property, and he also had extensive savings put away in more than one account. One account held over $1 million, and it was considered an investment account. No checks had ever been written from this account.
Charles’ son, Keith did most of the farming and also had his own separate enterprise from his father’s. Upon his marriage, Keith testified that the house he lived in was a generational home that was given to him by Charles and came with no mortgage. Keith’s wife was a librarian with the school system, and her checking account held a little over $3 on the morning of the murder. Both Keith and his wife had taken out numerous loans to cover expenses.
Keith was not as successful as his father. In fact, on the day of the murder, Keith was in debt over $372,000, and it was acknowledged in court by Keith that he owed more than this amount. Bank statements showed he was overdrawn in his checking accounts and was not able to cover the checks he had written to the Jackson County COOP that totaled almost $40,000. A representative from the COOP also testified that because of the state of Keith’s loans, he would not have been allowed to buy seed for the upcoming planting season. This meant Keith would not have crops in the ground, and with no crops in the ground, he would not have any profit in the fall during harvest season, setting him back even further. Those checks were set to clear by noon of the day of the murder. Keith visited First Southern State Bank the morning of the murder, arriving around 9 a.m. with his father’s checkbook and had the bank write a check out to him in the amount of $50,000. Not long before his murder, Charles had already written a check to Keith in the amount of $25,000, which Keith used to apply as payments to several loans that were due. Charles also regularly helped his son and his son’s family with vehicles, monthly bills and also paid for his granddaughter to attend Sewanee.
After the murder, the million dollar investment bank account was nearly depleted by Keith to eliminate his debt.
According to Keith Shirey, it was his and his father’s routine to meet at the local deli in Reed’s Grocery and eat breakfast together. Keith stated during each interview with investigators that he drove past his father’s house on his way to Reed’s and did not see the bathroom light on, an indicator that his father was up and starting his day. After Keith ate breakfast, Charles still did not arrive for breakfast, and as the day wore on, Keith testified that he went past his father’s house several times and still did not see the light on. He also testified that it was not like his father at all to stay in bed late. Charles was an early riser and early to bed. He was also a creature of routine and was predictable and dependable. As the day wore on, Keith testified he ran a few more errands and ate his lunch with still no sign of his father.
According to Keith’s phone records, no call or text was made to his father that morning from 4:30 a.m., when Keith testified that he started his day, all the way up until he made the 911 call around 11:32 a.m. Keith did, however, call and chat with several acquaintances to “catch up and gossip” and pass his father’s house several more times. Keith testified he parked on the side of his father’s house at “the shop” to get random supplies that he needed while servicing the chicken houses.
He testified he never called, texted or knocked on his father’s door to check on him. He also testified that he thought his father was not home. Charles Shirey’s truck was parked in the driveway in its usual parking spot, and investigators took photos of the view from Charles’ truck that showed Keith’s truck was in plain sight on the other side of the house where the shop was located. Other inconsistencies became apparent during testimony. Keith testified that he rolled his father onto his back to help him and check for a pulse. Crime scene photos show Charles Shirey lying face-down on the floor, and he was not rolled over until the coroner arrived.
Keith also stated, more than once during interviews with law enforcement investigators that part of the money was his and part of the farm was his. He also mentioned more than once how his father always got his way, how he, Keith, was always the one doing all the work from morning to night, and his father still got his way in everything, and whatever he wanted, he got. He state that there was an unspoken rule in their family, that Charles was the only one who wrote the checks, and no one else was privy to this privilege or to his money unless they came to him and asked, and even then, Charles was the only one who wrote the checks. However, when asked why he had his father’s checkbook in his possession, Keith stated he had been in possession of his father’s checkbook for months and was allowed to use it when needed.
All of this was enough for the prosecution, led by Disctict Attorney Jason Pierce and Assistant District Attorney Krystina Jackson, to form a case against Keith on the basis of the financial records, Keith’s actions before and after the murder, money, desperation, jealousy, resentment, evil and the culmination of Keith snapping one morning when he asked for help and was refused by Charles.
Pierce stated, “This was a long and difficult case. The jury had a lot of evidence they had to sort through, and we are grateful they came to the verdict they did. Much of the credit should go to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office investigators for their perseverance and to Assistant DA Krystina Jackson for doing such an outstanding job. We are happy justice was served.”
The defense team, led by attorney Joe Espy, III, argued the evidence brought against Keith was all circumstantial, and that his debt and desperation did not prove his guilt. There was also a lack of forensic evidence directly tying Keith to the murder scene, aside from when he was there to find the body and call 911, as there was Keith’s admission of being there and his bloody boot prints surrounding the crime scene. The murder weapon was also never found, and Keith’s truck was never checked, nor was he photographed, other than the bottoms of his boots and the toes of his boots.
It took the jury two days to return with a verdict of guilty of murder by striking his father repeatedly with a blunt instrument.
On Monday, November 15, 2021, Shirey’s attorneys filed a motion for release on bond and requested the court set a reasonable bond for Shirey until the date of his sentencing, which is scheduled for January 6, 2022. Shirey is in the custody of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and will remain there until the judge’s decision regarding bond.
UPDATE – 11/17/21
District Attorney files opposition to release
“Opposition to Release
Comes now the State of Alabama by and through the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office and does state that it is OPPOSED to the Defendant Motion for Release Pending Sentencing. As grounds the State would show:
1. The Defendant was previously veiled in a cloak of innocence. That cloak was removed by the jury’s verdict. He is a convicted murderer and must be treated accordingly. The Court, having heard the testimony and seen the photographs, is aware of the brutality and savagery that the Defendant inflicted on his very own 78-year-old father.
2. In light of the horrific behavior of the Defendant, the State will be requesting the maximum sentence be imposed on the Defendant. In the course of the trial, the Court became aware of the significant financial resources which the victim had at the time of his death, and which, to the State’s knowledge, remain in the family. In consideration of the potential sentence, the Defendant’s age, and the Defendant’s access to resources, the State believes that the Defendant poses a significant flight risk.
Wherefore, the State would request that this Honorable Court deny the Defendant’s Motion.”